Trend catchup

Awhile back I started reblogging the 7 trends Alison Circle was reporting on her Bubble Room blog. The first two were going green and the recession. I never quite did get back and cover the rest! So here they are:

#3  Cell 2.0 the evolution of mobile devices

#4 Transparency designing our work spaces so people can see what librarians really do

#5 Authenticity staying true to an idea. This one has been mentioned in trend watching for a few years now and its one libraries should see as a natural “fit” with what we do. Keeping it real, being authentic.

#6 Open brand  being open to personalisation, customisation, includes connecting with customers via social networking but its more than that

#7   Grey The ageing population. Interesting one this – I remember a few years back seeing a bunch of older customers swiftly changing queues at the issue desk to avoid being tangled up with a bunch of school kids. What do our older customers want from our libraries, is this going to change over time?

Library Survivor

Thje second trend marketing trend being followed by Alison Circle on her Bubble Room blog is responding to the economy. Circle talks about an idea for libraries  in harsh economic times – utilising after school homework help centres during the day as job help centres. 

 I’ve also spotted:

  • a report in a Milwaukee newspaper that libraries benefits are being rediscovered during the economic downturn
  • the editorial from the New Zealand Listener earlier this year that talks about the importance of libraries in times of economic hardship


Duncan McLachlan (Library Life, Dec 2008) has outlined 6 marketing ideas libraries can utilise to survive the economic downturn themselves. These include:

  • know your customers better and double your efforts with your ‘frequent flyers’
  • show your family values because they match the prevailing mood
  • adjust your services to value-for-money options
  • spend more on promotion not less – but simplify it
  • be quick and responsive
  • go for market share

You can read Duncan’s full column in the PDF version of Library Life, which is available to non-members, just jump to page 14.


How green is my library?

I’m currently following the marketing trends that Alison Circle has been reviewing in her Bubble Room blog.

First up was going green– an interesting one  given there was recent publicity about Google as a carbon criminal  (and an inference from a Google blog that libraries might be one as well).  In her blog post on the subject Kathryn Greenhill makes a very good point that

we should be working to make sure that our information format brand isn’t presumed to be only print books. Maybe we also need to work hard to ensure our “query answering” brand is not “in person”.

The Hartman Group pick gone green for good as an ongoing, with zero “green fatigue” currently in sight.  Their summary mentions green clothing and urban farming but as a megatrend it’s relevant to all sectors.

Marketing – the last profession to be invited into the library world

So begin’s Alison Circle’s post on Marketing as strategy, not a poster. For me this is a critically important blog posting, as it highlights what Circle considers to be a fundamental confusion in libraries between marketing and promotion. For Circle, marketing is:

a high level strategy, not the tactics that give life to that strategy

and as such it involves:

  • market research to know as much as possible about current and potential customers
  • analysing customer needs – what can be met and critically what can’t be met
  • identification and analysis of the competition
  • a focus on the four Ps – product, price, position and promotion

For me this sort of focus is exactly what has been missing as I’ve sat through numerous conference presentations that have highlighted again and again the challenges that face libraries, but have resulted in very little or no discussion on the strategy of how we will meet these challenges. Clearly we need to promote libraries and what we do, but where is our strategy that gives us a foundation to that – that gives us a framework to focus our limited budgets and resources? 

This then is what has led me to study marketing and to consider it in relation to libraries – because I suspect there aren’t enough of us in the library profession that know enough about marketing.

So here are a few questions I’ve got for starters:

  • do we follow and understand the major societal and consumer trends and how they will impact on us as librarians?
  • we survey our customers but do we just find out what we already know, or do we gather information that can actually help us make decisions about service delivery?
  • are we really honest about what needs we can and can’t meet? Are we honest and brave enough to concede there are some needs we can’t meet and there is little point in wooing certain groups of customers?
  • do we know who are competitors are and do we keep track of what they are up to?
  • do we have a good idea of how we should plan for future services – specifically how will the information seeking behaviours of generation Y, Z and C evolve? Are we aware of any longitudinal studies in place to look at this?

Public libraries in New Zealand under attack again?

A recent  issue of the Listener features an editorial on why an increasing effort is needed to preserve our public libraries in New Zealand. It gives an overwhelmingly positive message which is fantastic, and in great contrast to a post on a blog from the UK  claiming libraries are a barrier to reading. The issue of public funding of libraries in New Zealand was a hot topic on a couple of the  blogs over Christmas/New Year, on Bill Ralston’s blog, and on Moata Tamaira’s Blog idle, – I haven’t read all the comments in depth but there will be a wealth of public opinion to be mined I am sure!

While on the subject of libraries and their worth I came across a fantastic idea Rochester Hills Public Library  in the U.S  uses to show library users the value of the books they have taken out, and thereby demonstrates how much money they have saved by using the library.  The link to this initiative was in a fantastic new blog I’ve come across on libraries and marketing – more on that soon!